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Relative Pronouns (continued)


3. The Relative Pronoun "What"







Unlike "who," the relative pronoun "what" in English is similar to the Arabic one in that the antecedent is omitted in English too. Therefore, it should be easy here.



أَعْرِفُ مَاْ فَعَلْتَ

'a"rif(u) maa fa"alt(a)

= (I) know what (you) did

Translation: I know what you did


N.B. the word maathaa مَاْذَاْ is related to maa and it works exactly like it, including as a relative pronoun. More information is here.


A final point about relative pronouns is the idea of restrictiveness. An English non-restrictive relative clause is preceded by a pause in speech or a comma in writing, whereas a restrictive clause normally is not. Compare the following sentences, which have two quite different meanings in English:


(1) The builder, who erects very fine houses, will make a large profit.

(2) The builder who erects very fine houses will make a large profit.


In Arabic, there are NO restrictive relative clauses. The only possible form of relative clauses is the second one.


A summary of relative pronouns in Arabic:


English R.P Usage Arabic Equivalent
That Humans & Nonhumans



(Changeable Form / Antecedent May be Omitted)


Which Nonhumans

Not Present

Who Humans


(No Antecedent)

To Whom Humans

Not Present

Whose Humans & Nonhumans

Not Present


(No Antecedent)



(No Antecedent)







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